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Look, we know what you’re thinking: This is by far one of our worst pun-based ideas. But Greg gets real pissy if we don’t let him just go to town roasting something, both literally and figuratively, every thirty days or so. And so we present: Lunch.
Congratulations on surviving another year in hell world. Your reward is another round of this bullshit. It might feel like this is never going to stop, but the reality is, no, you were right, it’s never going to stop.
2k21 was probably not anyone’s favorite of the 2ks, but comparing it to 2k20, it probably could have been worse. Some good things happened, such as the Goonhammer Open (twice!) and some of us getting a vaccine (twice!). Some good things also did not happen, such as any semblance of normalcy returning to the world. I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one, and since the Old World isn’t coming back, it might be useful to check in and see how we’re getting by.
To deal with the continued demolition of casual social interaction, I spent a lot of time on video conferences, which I am now calling VidCons, painting models with friends. I also consumed a lot of capital-C Content. I promise I’m not going to do a second consecutive Meatwatch about TV, but something I noticed while watching Pig (which, incidentally, owns, and is far more, and stranger, than just John Wick or Mandy but about a pig. Well, maybe not stranger than Mandy, but what is) is that movies and shows are fake as hell now. They always were, obviously, that’s how fiction works, but everything you watch that purports to be set in the real world yet doesn’t have every character either wearing a mask and sanitizing their hands or hooting and hollering like a fucking idiot chud in defiance of those things is actually a type of sci-fi or fantasy now. They don’t take place in the real world anymore. Every single one is a period piece.
I’m not sure I’d prefer it the other way around – one year of Very Important Episodes and the occasional dreadful movie about conspiracy theories was enough, thank you very much. I’m happier with writers including a single throwaway “oof that vaccination still stings” line in their season premiere to skirt the issue than I was with them building entire season-long arcs around tackling it head-on. Aside from maybe Bo Burnham’s, none of that early COVID-era art is going to age well – the Zoom-based episodes of Saturday Night Live might be interesting in a “The AV Club does a media-production oral history” sense purely for how bananas the format shift was, but the rest of it is a product of, and for, one specific era. It’s jarring being reminded of the defining issue of our continuing times through its absence. I feel like I should be appreciating the escapism, and on some level I do, but it also feels like it’s heightening the contradictions, to borrow a phrase.
Early in the pandemic I stopped doing DuoLingo lessons, because no matter how threatening that owl is, he can’t change the fact that travel is impossible now and I’m never going to use this shit, which sort of killed my motivation. On the other hand, I’ve been window-shopping for model trains on Amazon. Trains are so rad – and I mean real trains, not the idiotic Tesla Hyperloop concept that creates a surface-level traffic jam in order to funnel exploding battery-powered cars into a single-lane tunnel with no exits – and if I can’t ride a real one, I’m going to get an approximation of wanderlust by making a small one run loops around my desk. I want a tiny model Shinkansen so I can look at it and get mad about how bad the trains here suck, even though I won’t be riding either any time soon. Hell, the only reasons Goonhammer isn’t about model trains already are that the prices make Warhammer look like a bargain, and that the closest thing model trains have to a Henry Cavill is fucking Rod Stewart.
My main coping strategy, though, has been really leaning into lunch. Lunch is, I feel, underrated as a meal. It sits, in time and plate size, between breakfast and dinner: too late in the day for eggs, too early for dessert, but you can eat as many potato chips as you want. That’s kind of why I like it so much. It’s far enough past the coffee hour that I’m awake and can enjoy myself, rather than needing to consume enough energy to function, but not so much that I’m not wiped out yet. It’s also become a refuge of sorts, now that my wife and I have moved to a more permanent telework footing, a time where we can step away from our desks, maybe go for a walk in our quietly stifling suburban neighborhood, and just spend some time together. Lunch is the treat you give yourself, a little break from the work day. It’s like stealing from your boss, in that way. I think that’s part of the appeal.
The lunch Mission Pack has three main deployment maps. There’s the standard sandwich-style, the more dynamic soup option, and the various oddball bowl layouts that I’m collectively going to refer to as salad, though it includes grain bowls and the like as well.
A good type of lunch to enjoy is the sandwich. Versatile and portable, it’s the only meal that can be eaten at the table like a normal human being, or wolfed down plateless while standing over the sink. The general concept of “stuff on bread” is a perfect fit for a casual meal like lunch. This form factor offers minimal cleanup, isn’t too heavy, and can be made in hot or cold varieties. It’s tailor-made for something like lunch. Absolute bangers in here: the BLT, the big greasy hoagie, chicky parm. Absolute all-timer of a lunch.
This category is also where I’d include the venerated Hot Dog Lunch. Meatwatch is emphatically not here to define what is or isn’t a sandwich; that’s more of a Ruleshammer question. I implore you to bother Kais about it early and often, because I like messing with him. He never answered my question about surreptitiously spray-priming someone’s model mid-game to deny them the 10 Battle-Ready points, or if you’d have to do it pre-game in the Muster Armies step, and I will not forgive him for that.
Soup is good food, and it is prime soup season in this hemisphere. Our last three weeks of lunches have been vegetable soup, followed by Italian wedding soup, followed by baked potato soup. There are a lot of different soups to try, is my point, and any of them will fill your house with delicious savory smells as they slowly simmer away on a cold weekend afternoon. It’s like a food-scented air freshener. If you’re not into meat, it’s also way easier to make vegetarian or vegan soups than it is with sandwiches.
There are two main advantages that soup has over the other formats. One, minimal day-to-day preparation. Sandwiches and salads require assembly at game-time, when you really just want to set up at the table and get rolling. If you do it right and just make a humongous pot of this over the weekend, your soup can be deployed straight out of a big bowl into a smaller bowl, and be ready to go. Grab a chunk of bread if you want to get weird with it, but it’s fine if you don’t. The other reason I love making soup is that I get to do stuff like say “I make-a the soup” while making the Italian chef finger-kiss like twenty times.
Green salads, quinoa bowls, anything with just vegetables and maybe some meat or a sauce on it. These can all be combined in what I’m calling the Maelstrom of Lunch mode, a more free-form narrative meal. It’s perhaps easier to define it in opposition to the other two: this is either a breadless sandwich or an exceptionally dry soup. It is, if we are being honest, not that exciting of a lunch.
Usually salads are seen as a punishment, to atone for eating too richly the night before. I don’t abide this line of thinking, and I’ll try to force myself to enjoy a big shitty pile of lettuce, but it’s usually just kind of awful. You can maybe stretch the definition a bit and allow stir-fries here – those bang – but the base gameplay of cold veggies or quinoa, it’s not my favorite Eating Mission to embark upon.
Salad meets minimum acceptable lunch standards, but is unsatisfying and likely to result in late-afternoon snacking because you’ll get bored with eating it before you put down enough to stay full until dinner.
So that’s that. Meatwatch is actually an advertisement for lunch. It’s the meal we all love: Lunch. This hasn’t been the best year, but it did offer us 365 opportunities to tell the boss to take a hike while we chow down on a reasonably-sized plate of whatever was still in the fridge, and that’s something. I like to celebrate the small victories, because sometimes those are the only ones I get, and a little mid-day snack qualifies. Stay safe out there, or don’t.
Thanks for sticking around, and making this column what it is: a little-read corner of this website that exists solely for me to waste your time and get yelled at. If you have questions or comments, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, or right here in the comments. Meatwatch is here to help.